Published: Sat, April 08, 2017
Sport | By Fredrick Flores

Reigning champ Willett opens 2nd round with an 8

Reigning champ Willett opens 2nd round with an 8

Eight more players - including world No. 2 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and 47-year-old Ernie Els of South Africa - are at even-par.

Another Englishman and reigning Olympic champion Justin Rose is also in the chasing pack on one-under along with Spain's Sergio Garcia and American Jason Dufner among others.

Defending champion Danny Willett got off to a rough start and was 3 over through two holes.

"I was just wearing my socks", Johnson said. "I'm playing probably the best golf of my career and this is one of my favorite tournaments". Today you just sort go with it.

Hoffman's four-shot lead was the largest at the Masters for the opening round since Jack Burke Jr. had a four-shot lead in 1955.

He opened with a bogey on the first hole and dropped shots on the third and fifth to make the turn in 39.

"[The day] didn't start off the way I really anticipated", Hoffman said after his fantastic performance. In fact, it rolled off the green back into the fairway. "You can't be scared of hitting it 3 feet by".

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Hoffman made seven birdies over his last 11 holes for a 7-under 65.

Earlier, golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit traditional ceremonial tee shots to mark the start of the tournament and also to commemorate the late Arnold Palmer, a four-times Masters victor who died last September. He has not won a 2017 tournament but did finish second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational just a couple weeks ago. "I can't make my normal swing and I didn't think there was any chance I could compete", Johnson said. Spieth shot par or better in his first nine rounds at the Masters. Only 18 players were within seven shots of Hoffman. "The putter's rolling for me right now so hopefully I can keep it going". "Obviously, [I'm] going to sleep on the lead at a major championship here at Augusta National [and that] is not going to be the easiest thing. I will look forward to that", he said.

What kept the course more playable despite the strong winds were greens that were receptive, in part because of rain both Monday and Wednesday.

He did just that on the par-five second hole, sinking a 42-foot eagle putt, much to the excitement of the throng of fans who came out early.

Four-times major champion McIlroy appeared to be struggling in the wind and was three-over after the front nine.

With winds gusting up to 35mph moving balls on greens and causing havoc around Amen Corner in particular, even 2015 champion Jordan Spieth was not out of contention despite running up a quadruple-bogey nine on the 15th in a 75.

"Thankfully I managed to birdie the two par fives and another one coming in and even par was a great score so I'm really happy with that", said McIlroy. Hoffman, a four-time victor on the PGA Tour - most recent was the 2016 Valero Texas Open - is making his fourth Masters appearance this week. Not one of the top 10 players in the world rankings broke par. I feel like I need to snag something tomorrow.

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